His smile resting below a pair of black sunglasses and a green ballcap, Brent Steuerwald spent most of Wednesday evening supervising the latest edition of the Section II All-Star Football Camp at the facility that bears his name.
Steuerwald has guided Shenendehowa football teams at offseason camps for nearly 50 years. The camps have taken on different forms and names over the course of those decades, and Steuerwald has supervised all of them while wearing a grin befitting a coaching icon who won 318 games and 11 Section II titles in 44 seasons before retiring after the 2011 campaign.
“He’s the builder of this whole program,” said Brian Clawson, who succeeded Steuerwald as head coach and assists the 80-year-old with running the camp. “The Shenendehowa football empire was created by him.”
This year’s camp, though, is a little bit different for Steuerwald. Much different, actually.
After so many years leading the way, this week’s camp at Brent T. Steuerwald Stadium is the last one he will lead for the Plainsmen program he built from scratch. Steuerwald will remain part of Shen football as an icon and advisor. But he is giving up his long-standing role in the off-season program he also founded. Health dictates, that as a precaution, he rolls back his obligations.
Late last fall, Steuerwald became ill, unable to tell at first what was plaguing him. So pained, he missed a couple of his beloved Shenendehowa football games, contests for which he still hangs out on the sideline with the Plainsmen coaching staff.
“But I don’t interject, unless Coach [Clawson] has a question for me,” Steuerwald said.
It was early this year that Steuerwald said he finally got a diagnosis: Wegener’s granulomatosis, a disorder in which blood flow to organs such as the lungs and kidneys is negatively affected because of inflammation.
“If [I did not get diagnosed when I did], I would have been dead in six months or on dialysis for the rest of my life,” said Steuerwald, who credited doctors at Albany Medical Center for helping him.
A variety of drugs treated the ailment — a de facto chemotherapy — and have Steuerwald feeling well again.
“But that was a bit of an eye opener,” he said.
Physically, Steuerwald looks sound and he’s as sharp as ever. Aunts of his, he said, lived to be 103 and 97 years old, and he plans to follow their lead. This fall, he expects to be on the Plainsmen sideline watching the team attempt to defend its latest Section II championship.
“I’ll be continuing my association with Shenendehowa football,” he said. “Not to would be too much of a life change.”
And, football still is what makes Steuerwald tick. At Wednesday’s camp session, he led the 200 boys in attendance — nearly all Shenendehowa athletes, plus a few out-of-towners — in a tackling workout.
Steuerwald said he still writes about the game and best practices for it in a variety of football magazines, and speaks about the sport whenever he can find a group of interested ears.
During the high school football season, the audience he often finds is the Shenendehowa varsity squad. Clawson said Steuerwald addresses the team once a week during the season, offering the Plainsmen a rallying speech before their upcoming game.
“We want them to get to know him,” said Clawson, calling Steuerwald his mentor.
They do, and they want to impress Steuerwald. Soon-to-be senior Michael Gillooley, a defensive lineman and tight end, said it’s difficult to not try a little bit harder when the legend is around.
“He put the program where it is today,” Gillooley said. “Without him, Shen football is not prestigious and doesn’t have all the tradition we have. It’s all because of him.”
The players, Steuerwald said, are why he plans to continue helping out Shenendehowa football in any way possible. After his health scare and decades of involvement with the game, Steuerwald said his reason for wanting to stay involved with the green-and-white empire he built is a simple one.
“The kids,” he said.
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Categories: High School Sports, News, Sports